How to Save College

Posted by Debby on 7th February and posted in Innovation, Random Education

Distance ed courses are nothing new. They’ve been around since people actually sent stuff through the postal mail system (if not before). My kids are all enrolled in MOOCs this semester. We’ll see how that experiment works out. However, we really do need to ask ourselves (especially those of us in academia) – how do colleges stay relevant in a world where access to information is almost a non-issue. What added value do we bring to the table, and is it worth the price? I’m not sure 4+ years racking up student loans is a viable answer anymore given the economic models developing in front of us. There are some tradeoffs for mass information distribution and educational individualization. Are they worth it?

When she shared this article on Facebook, Linda Polin commented:

“Shirkey on MOOCs, or rather on what the MOOCs stand in opposition to… (sadly Pepperdine gets named in this; fortunately, it is not thrashed in the process)… Shirkey has a gd pt that we often forget — that is, who actually makes up the bulk of the college population (it ain’t kids at Harvard, Stanford, etc). Best parts of the essay are below the fold so read it all…to wit:

I’ve been thinking about the effects of the internet for a couple of decades now. I’ve watched industry after industry forced to renegotiate their methods and models, in the face of a medium that allows for perfect copying, global distribution, zero incremental cost, ridiculously easy group-forming: The music business. Newspapers. Travel agents. Publishers. Hotel owners. And while watching, I’ve always wondered what I’d do when my turn came.”

From the article: 

Forget private school. Tuition and fees at public four-year colleges went up 72% last decade, even as the market value of a bachelor’s degree fell by 15%.

The value of that degree remains high in relative terms, but only because people with bachelor’s degrees have seen their incomes shrink less over the last few years than people who don’t have them. “Give us tens of thousands of dollars and years of your life so you can suffer less than your peers” isn’t much of a proposition. More like a ransom note, really.

This is the background to the entire conversation around higher education: Things that can’t last don’t. This is why MOOCs matter. Not because distance learning is some big new thing or because online lectures are a solution to all our problems, but because they’ve come along at a time when students and parents are willing to ask themselves, “Isn’t there some other way to do this?”

MOOCs are a lightning strike on a rotten tree. Most stories have focused on the lightning, on MOOCs as the flashy new thing. I want to talk about the tree.

Read the rest of it here: What do you think? 


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